Wow–in preparation for writing this post, I looked back to see how long it’s been since I wrote My Journey to Getting an Agent, or “The Call.” 2 1/2 years! That’s crazy! On the one hand, it feels like that was forever ago, but on the other hand, it feels like it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. It’s certainly been a busy couple of years with lots of editing and submissions, close calls along the way, and yes, a pretty fairytale ending, if I do say so myself.
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or are subscribed to my newsletter, you must have heard the news last week that my publisher, Harlequin, finally announced their new imprint, Graydon House, of which my debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be a part of launching. Working with Harlequin these last six months has been a dream come true and I’m so excited to finally be able to share all the details!
Which made me think, it’s probably time to give you an update on how things have transpired since that last post. I know I always love hearing people’s stories because every one of them is different, and yet, I usually find a little bit of my own story in each of them. Plus, for those of you who may be going through the submission process yourself, maybe you’ll find a little hope in knowing that even a tough submission journey can end with a published book.
So what happened after I finally signed with the elusive agent and angels sang from the heavens?
Editing, of course.
I’m insanely grateful that my agent not only has a law degree, but also an MFA. (Yes, I know–she’s pretty much superwoman.) She loved my characters and my story, understanding them on a kind of level that I only ever dreamed of, so when she had suggestions for how to improve the story or further reveal my characters’ motivations, I listened. In particular, the motivations of my main character, Dylan, needed to be delved into much, much deeper, which took several drafts to do. Being a first person, single narrative, it was so important to get her right.
This wasn’t an easy process and it wasn’t a quick process. In fact, it took me an entire year to get my manuscript in shape for submissions. During this time, I discovered I’m a pretty slow editor because I can’t help but comb through every single word on every single draft to make sure each one still rings true. It must be my years as a web and graphic designer that has made me such a stickler for details.
After signing with an agent, I expected things would happen pretty quickly and the fact that there was still so much work to do was disheartening. But we all know what a tough business this is to break into so I appreciate, now more than ever, how many times my amazing agent talked me off the ledge and assured me that she believed in me and my book. She wanted to make sure we went out on submission with the strongest manuscript possible, and she was right.
Going on Submission
At the beginning of January 2015, my agent finally said the magic words. They were more or less, “Let’s do this!” (Except much more eloquently because she’s Irish and has an impressive vocabulary.) We started off with ten imprints of the traditional publishing houses that we thought would be interested in my story. I was excited! I knew that it could take a while to hear back–I’d heard stories of authors who were on submission for a year or more, but I’d also heard stories of writers who got an offer in a week. As we tend to do, I hoped I would be one of the lucky ones.
It wasn’t too bad at first. I was still hopeful. The process was new. There were still so many possibilities. A month went by, and then another, and then another. And that’s when things started to get hard. The rejections came first, as they always do.
A few months in, I hit my first “second readers” milestone. This is what happens when the editor likes the book and is interested in taking on the project. Before it can go to the acquisitions board and get approved for purchase, she has to get support from other editors in the house as well as marketing. There are so many hands that go into making the decision that the more people an editor can get on her side, the more likely it is that she’ll get the answer she’s hoping for. Editors have to fight for the books they love too! Which is why they have to be so enthusiastic about them to begin with. And why the “yes”s take so much longer than the “no”s.
Ultimately, though, her second readers didn’t know how to market my book amongst all the suspenseful women’s fiction that’s taken hold of the market and enthusiasm fizzled out.
The Close Call
Four months in, we finally had a real break! One of the editors we’d sent it to really, really loved it. So much so that even though she thought there were things that could be improved (STILL? Come on!) she wanted to work with me to get the manuscript to a place where she could then garner the support of others in the house. I ended up having a very nerve-wracking phone call with her (I was talking to an editor at a major publishing house!) about ways she thought the manuscript could improve, and I loved her ideas. I felt like she understood where I was trying to go with the story so I was happy to take her suggestions.
But…it was the beginning of summer, and I was getting ready to move so we were back to slogging. My agent and I decided to postpone sending out any more submissions until I implemented the changes and it took me all summer to do. It was easier than before, though, knowing I was getting real interest. I felt like I was so close…that this could be “it.” At the end of summer, we re-submitted it and then…
The editor was excited about the changes and she sent it around to her team. We also submitted the new, improved manuscript to some more houses. Weeks ticked by. Months. No word. More rejections. Eventually, we heard that as much as the editor loved the book, she still couldn’t get enough support–and for the same reason as the previous publisher–so I received another very nice rejection.
By this point, we were already a year into submissions…without a contract…that lofty goal of a one-week offer long since laughable. I kept my game face on, but I was pretty discouraged. As it turned out, even though I had an agent who loved my book, there were still no guarantees that it would get published.
Where are you at in your publishing journey? How has it been for you? Do stories like this give you hope or make you feel more discouraged?